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Asia Pacific Augistinian Conference

APAC at the grass roots


This article was written for the APAC Bulletin in 1981 by Bishop Pieter van Diepen OSA of the Dutch Augustinian Province. He went to West Papua - then Dutch New Guinea - in 1953, and was appointed as the first Bishop of Manokwari in 1966. He resigned because of ill health in 1988, and returned to Holland, where he died at a great age in April 2005.

There is no relevant church unless it is at the service of the world. And there is no relevant Augustinian community unless it is at the service of the world, this world, our world. If, then, in our times the Spirit is urgently speaking to the churches about God’s designs with the world, we too shall have to recognise the signs of the times. The meaning of emerging history and the aspirations and questionings of humankind, especially of the Asian people to whom we profess to dedicate ourselves.

The question is not in the first place whether we as individuals or as separate communities have an open mind for the needs and aspirations of the Asian world. The question that I would like to urge is whether we as APAC should make this openness to the Asian world a point of common interest and concern, having its solitude near at heart and giving it, to say the least, a certain measure of priority in our programmes. 

Basically the answer has been laid down by the APAC Foundations Meeting (in Rome on 13th September 1977), where it said: “It is our aim to have an outward-looking organisation so that, by our united pooling of ideas, the Augustinian presence in this whole region will be something positive for all the local churches.”

Young Assumptionist priests, Manila.

So let us ask the local churches about their needs and aspirations, starting with the ordinary people. “The church is the people of God. The church in Southeast Asia will become more fully the People of God the more fully it is, and is recognised to be, the church of the people.” No goals to be obtained, no action programmes to be drawn up, will prove effective unless they are rooted where any life takes its beginnings, i.e., on the grass-roots level. 

We shall only reach as far as people are prepared to come along with us. Besides, let us not underestimate the precious insights of the ordinary people, because they are endowed with a directness and a simplicity and with a natural unsophisticated wisdom that provide the indispensable building materials for the realization of their future society.

And only then let us ask each other. Our number of personnel is very limited, and so are our resources. On the other hand, if we find it worthwhile to come together because of our common Augustinian heritage, and if we do so with open hearts and open minds, listening to what the Spirit says to our communities, we may find new inspiration and a renewed thrust, driving us forward towards becoming more adequate messengers of hope and optimism.

It is our task to investigate whether and to what extent our unity of mind and heart, based on the ideals of the Jerusalem community of Christ’s first disciples, is a suitable starting point for our common testimony as prophets of hope in the Asian and Pacific world. We must do so realistically, yes, but at the same time without being discouraged, making ours the Message of the Asian Bishops, where it says:

Order of St Augustine, Manila.

“Our brothers in Asia, we are small in numbers, with little human resources, with little – even – of human wisdom and power; with almost no influence in our great continent, on the council of nations. But in our poverty and lowliness we are not disheartened by the massive problems which confront all of us in this decade because we find resources of faith and courage, in Him who in his cross and dying proved himself the great lover of people. And as the Lord’s arm is not shortened, so is his love ever poured out upon us, and thus our hope and the courage born of it, even if constantly threatened and broken, is yet ever constantly renewed.”

Pieter van Diepen OSA
Bishop of Manokwari-Sorong
June 1981.


APAC Fast Facts






APAC supports the efforts of our member congregations.







APAC encourages the sharing of ideas.






APAC increases our common awareness of values.






APAC reflects on the gifts that interiority brings us.






APAC draws us closer to the God who unites us.






APAC serves the diverse common needs of its member congregations.






APAC calls us to co-operate and to share.


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